My oldest daughter has always been one of the top students in her class. And, as part of that, we have heard nothing but good things about her at parent-teacher conferences.
However, that changed at her most recent conference, when we learned she was getting in trouble because she wasn’t staying focused in class and was letting her mind wander to the point her teacher had to move her desk so she wasn’t distracting the rest of the students. Plus, while her grades were still very high, her math scores (one of her best subjects) were starting to slip a bit.
Since we had never heard this complaint about our daughter before (including from her current teacher earlier in the year), we decided not to punish her for it and, instead, looked for ways to get her refocused in class. And, we came up with three steps that, at least so far, seem to be working for her.
First, we found some ways for her to burn off excess energy. It’s been a very harsh winter this year and, as a result of that, I know she hasn’t been able to go outside for recess as much as she normally would. She’s also involved with some recess-time activities like chorus and a Harry Potter book club. To help make up for that, we have been finding ways to help her burn off that energy ahead of time, such as letting her help me shovel snow, taking a few minutes to play a game of catch with her or even have her do some jumping jacks.
Second, we found ways to focus the excess energy. Our daughter likes to do things with her hands and we recognize that. So, instead of telling her to keep her hands completely still at all times, we showed her some ways to keep them moving a bit while still being able to pay attention to her teacher and without distracting her classmates. One method, for example, is drawing imaginary “doodles” on her leg with her finger.
Last, we encourage it at home. Since she has to sit still long enough at school, I don’t necessarily force her to do it all the time at home. However, if she’s playing with her silverware at the dinner table rather than eating her food, I’ll point it out to her. Or, if her mind seems to be wandering during a conversation, I’ll make sure to mention it. Since we started offering these gentle reminders, she seems to be doing a bit more self-checking on her own.
My wife and I are both optimistic this lack of focus is just a short-term thing brought on by a bad case of cabin fever. However, thanks to these steps, we will be able to help our daughter stay on top of her class by making sure she’s paying attention when she is supposed to be.